BRAD Scott says North Melbourne is better placed to make a fast start to the home and away season than it's been at any time during his coaching reign.
The Roos have developed a bad habit of starting seasons slowly since Scott took over ahead of the 2010 season.
They are yet to win a round one game under Scott and have regularly entered the second half of seasons needing a strong finish to make the finals, let alone the top four.
In 2012, the Roos' 4-6 opening to the season meant they had to win 10 of their final 12 games to sneak into eighth.
Last season, they overcame a 6-7 start to finish eighth, but had to win seven games in a row from round 15 to do so.
North is now openly targeting its first top-four home and away finish under Scott as it bids to improve on 2014 and '15 preliminary final appearances.
And the Roos coach says his playing list is in the best position it's ever been for this time of the year.
"We acknowledge that we've been behind the eight-ball after some poor starts to the year and there have been a variety of factors for that," Scott said at the announcement of North's 2016 leadership group on Wednesday.
"We probably sat here in early February last year scrambling to try and get our list together. We were very thankful the World Cup cricket gave us an extra two weeks to prepare because we would have been in even bigger strife had that not been the case.
"So we've worked really diligently with the playing group in the off-season. We've got really good (player) availability, we've set a really good platform and the proof will be in the pudding.
"We've changed a few things up in terms of the way we've prepared and the players have embraced that really well."
Scott said North would not fall into the trap of focusing too much on the opening rounds of 2016, dryly observing that, once in the finals, he would rather win games late in the year.
"We're not going to go overboard in throwing all our eggs into the start basket only to fade out late in the season," Scott said.
"It's a balancing act that we've got to work on."
As buoyant as he is about the state of North's list, Scott is in no doubt the Roos need to improve significantly in 2016 to challenge the AFL's powerhouse teams.
"At least anecdotally, there's a lot of distance we've got to catch up on the very best teams in the competition and our players are very aware of that," he said.
"But at the same time we're confident that our best can match it with anyone.
"We've just got to produce it when it matters most."